Aaron and Holly sat across from each other on benches located on either side of the park’s once busy path. It didn’t get as much use anymore, however, because people preferred to stay home and not deal with the pandemic that was ravaging planet.
They were able to pull down their masks, and let them hang around their necks because Aaron had determined that such behavior, though risky, was safe enough to take the risk.
And he had literally done the calculations to check on their safety. He’d come down to the park with a tape measure to find the distance between the benches. If they sat on the opposites ends of their respective benches, they were fifteen feet apart.
Other benches in the park, though still on opposite sides of the path, had less distance between them. Yes, Aaron had measured the span between every bench in the place.
To write him off as a mere germaphobe and a worrier was an understatement along the lines of stating that the Coronavirus was just like the flu.
So the friends always sat on these benches when they went for a walk in the park. Then, and only then, would Aaron give the all clear for them to lower their masks.
“You want to know the one bright spot of this pandemic?” he asked after taking a long sip of his Snapple.
A smile crossed Holly’s pretty face.
“You actually think there’s a silver lining in all this?” she teased. “If I had to guess, I’d say that it’s allowed you to use your tape measure more often.”
Her smile only grew when he flipped her the bird from him side of the path.
“No, wise ass, although that has been fun,” he had to admit. “It’s not having to worry about being invited to so many damn weddings this summer.”
Holly sipped her coffee as she let that sink in. She was always amazed at how her best friend’s mind worked, and this was just another great example of that.
“I believe weddings are excuses for narcissists and people insecure in their relationships to torture their friends. My theory as to why I get invited to so many is because I’m single and have a steady job.”
Holly rolled her eyes as she normally did when Aaron was about to take off on a rant, but she always went along for the ride as they took her to the most entertaining places.
“Care to expand on that?” she egged him on, knowing full well he’d take the bait.
“Friends like to invite me to weddings to rub it in that they found someone, while I’m still a loser who’s not only single, but also can’t find a plus one for the wedding,” he explained calmly, but with a fire in his eyes that said this was coming from the part of his brain that controlled rage.
“We share a lot of friends, Holly, yet you don’t get nearly the same amount of invites. That’s because you usualy have someone, and it’s always some really handsome and successful guy. You and your date are generally more glamorous than the “happy couple”. While I’m just ripe for the mocking as they put me at the crazy, awkward singles table and watch me squirm uncomfortably for several hours.”
Holly chuckled because, as usual, his rant had a logic to it that was difficult to argue.
“How does the steady job play into the equation?” she asked because she was bored and had nothing better to do than to listen to his rage.
It was like having free, unfettered access to the craziest podcast on the market, and she reveled in being his most loyal subscriber.
“Because they know that means I can pay the entry fee,” he growled. “Not only do I have to sit there and have their relationship flaunted in my face, but I’ve also got to pay up with an offering in the form of a wedding present. It’s like I’m an underling in organized crime, and I’ve got to kick up a portion of my earnings as a tribute to the boss.”
He lowered his voice and pulled up his mask at the sight of a runner appearing on the horizon. He then glared over at Holly until she raised her mask, even though the runner was still twenty-five feet away and would quickly be past them.
If she wanted to spend time with Aaron, she had to listen to his rants and follow his extremely anal rules when it came to masking up against the virus.
Once the runner had passed, and was ten feet away (another Aaron rule), she lowered her mask and continued the conversation. “Wedding gifts have gotten pretty expensive. What’s with the items on wedding registries lately?”
Holly knew that a well thought out question would only inspire more ranting.
“You call them wedding registries, I call them hostage demands! If you want to gain entry to the event you really didn’t want to attend in the first place, you’d better show up with one of the pre-approved items from the list. If not, your experience will be even more horrifying than usual.”
Holly laughed out loud and almost dropped her coffee. “You’re insane.”
“But I’m right,” he countered after a sip of Snapple so he didn’t go hoarse in the middle of his next rant. “You know what I think? If you really love someone, you don’t need a big ceremony and a giant party. You go down to City Hall with two witnesses, and you do it in private. Then a year later, if you make it that long, throw an anniversary party. At that point, we’ll pick out gifts we think are appropriate, and stop by to congratulate you on making it 365 days without killing each other. Because what’s the big change? You were a couple with different last names, now you’re a couple with the same last name. Big achievement. Way to go, guys. You didn’t screw it up by making it official in the eyes of the law and maybe even your god if you’re people of faith.”
“Never,” he replied without hesitation. “I’m single because I haven’t found anyone who understands me. I’m an acquired taste, and no one seem to have the proper palette.”
Holly finished her coffee, and placed the empty cup in the trash bin next to her bench. When it had come time to choose who would sit where, and they always sat on the same benches since this had been decided, Aaron had offered her that bench because of his proximity to the trash.
Say what you would able Aaron, but he was a gentleman.
“Did you want to walk again, or were you not done ranting?” she asked politely.
“Of course I’m not done,” he snapped as if she’d asked the stupidest question ever. “You know what I’d love to be invited to? Apology parties. That’s what I’d call the get together people would have after a divorce. Friends could gather to roast the friend who’d just gotten divorced, the friend would have to apologize for putting everyone through the wedding, and then there would be gifts for the attendees.”
“You heard me. We’d get gifts from the idiots who got married and couldn’t make it last until death as they’d promised in front of all of us. Now I’d say the gifts would have to at least match the value of our wedding gifts, but we both know that’s never going to happen. Divorce is expensive, which is another reason why you should never get married, so I wouldn’t expect the gifts to be pricey, but I’d want them to mean something. They really should show that an effort was made to make reparations to those of us who had to suffer through the wedding.”
“I’m glad we never made one of those pacts that we’d marry each other if we were both single when we turned 35,” Holly informed him with a smile as she stood up and put on her mask to indicate she was ready to go.
“Why would I ever agree to something like that?” he countered as he stood and masked up as well. “I’d never put our friends through such torture.”
“That’s why I love you,” she quipped. “I’d give you a platonic kiss on the cheek, but that’s a Code Red Social Distancing Violation that would earn me two weeks of quarantine.”
“I’m so glad somebody gets me,” he smiled under his mask and then fell into step six and a half feet behind her to begin their walk home.